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Carl Löw of Helenenthal

In the Black Book, his personal record of his architectural projects, Voysey mentions two commissions from Carl Löw of Helenenthal near Iglau. The town was then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, became part of Czechoslovakia after the First World War, and is now the Helenin suburb of Jihlava in the Czech Republic. The client's name is rendered in various ways by Voysey and commentators, including Karl Low and Löwe.

The two projects were a burial ground (two designs in 1912) and a house (1922). Neither the house nor at least one of the burial ground designs were built, as designed by Voysey. However, it may be that Voysey had some input to Löw's tomb in the Central Cemetery in Jihlavav (see photographs).

A local source suggests that the tomb was built in 1912 by German sculptor and medalist Felix Georg Pfeifer according to Voysey's design. By 1912 Voysey had adopted his late Tudor/Gothic phase. There is something austere and brutal about the overall design of the stonework that feels like Voysey's work. The central figure (of Christ) is undoubtedly by Pfeifer, and possibly the bronze pierced grilles too. However, they could equally be by Voysey as they feature motifs from his design vocabulary, including bunches of grapes and birds. The fretted stonework looks convincingly 'Voysey', and also features birds. Pfeifer does not seem to have created other architectural schemes to accompany his sculptures.

Low family tomb

Löw family tomb in Jihlava

Larger version

Apart from the tomb, local research suggests that the house that did finally emerge, and possibly other buildings in the locality too, also owed something to Voysey's original design, perhaps even with his personal involvement (see Jindřich Vybíral, 'Charles F.A. Voysey's forgotten designs for southern Moravia'). Whatever Voysey's contribution, however, this seems to be his only work to be found in continental Europe.

Karl Anton Löw was born in Brno-Zábrdovice on 28th May 1849 and died in Jihlava on 19th April 1930. In 1869 he joined the family textile and clothing firm, which became Adolf Löw & Son. Initially in Brno, the company moved to Helenenthal in 1900. It was a principal supplier to the Austro-Hungarian and other governments, and also eventually owned factories in Lodz, Brno-Zábrdovice, Zilina and Krahulc, employing more than 2,000 people.

It appears that Löw made at least two visits to Britain. In 1867, as an eighteen-year-old, he went to the UK to study the modern principles of textile production, also visiting textile centres in France and Belgium on the same trip. In 1880, as a recognized expert in the wool industry, he was posted to England as a government representative.

Detail of stonework in the tomb

Detail of metalwork in the tomb

The factory settlement in Helenenthal grew to form a village of 448 inhabitants and 80 buildings, of which 21 were factory buildings. There was a school, a chapel, a post office and a telegraph office.

After the war, Löw decided to build a house for himself, and commissioned Voysey to design it. Hitchmough notes that "Voysey applied for a passport and visas in September 1922, charging his expenses to Low". These items appear on page 268 of the White Book, his record of project expenses, and there is also an entry on 15th September 1922 in his separate book of office expenses for "Map of Europe re Iglau. C Low. 1s 0d". However, Hitchmough continues that "there is no known evidence to confirm ... that Voysey made visits to Czechoslovakia", and in June 1923 an alternative design for the house by František Hůla from Prague-Dejvice was chosen, possibly incorporating some of Voysey's ideas.

Carl Löw

Plaque from the tomb


Page last amended 29th July 2022